On the Taxation of Land Rent

Josiah Wedgewood

[An excerpt from Essays and Adventures of a Labor Leader,
published in 1927, p.179]

If one class benefit it is only right that that same class alone should pay. Harold Cox used to call it "taxing red-headed men,' to point out its absurdity. If the red-headed men take and divide plunder I can see no wrong in asking them to find cash. But the question puzzles others than those wilfully blind. We have got so bred into us the idea that taxation should be according to ability to pay, that we cannot realize the justice of any other system we cannot realize that taxation might in reality be payment for services rendered. The taxation of land values cannot be squared with taxation according to ability to pay. We have discovered the futility of that cliche. We know now that the persons who actually pay according to their ability have in reality the best facilities for passing their tax on to the consumer that their payment is camouflage. On such a basis you hit the poor, not the rich who can afford to pay. The basis of 'ability to pay' is ineffective; it is also, even in its origin and still more in its result, unjust. Far better and far juster is our basis that taxes should be according to benefits received. Land values rise, therefore let land values pay. I cook with gas, therefore let the gas appear on my gas bill.